Fear has many faces and wields a power that may or may not be obvious. It may be disguised subtly in a seemingly innocent statement or it may be a direct, concrete threat.

Anyone who doubts the subtlety of fear and its power need only to watch kids in a junior high cafeteria at lunchtime. Here, one may view the daily drama of social engineering, orchestrated on one end by the obvious bully and on the other by the popular kids, and amplified by the numerous cliques, groups and gangs in between.

Why do such groups form? Because belonging to a group, any group, can superficially meet a human need.

This need for approval, to belong and feel safe begins early in human development and plays an important role, not only in shaping the individual but also in shaping society.

It is a need that is best satisfied within the direction, protection and oversight of a loving family, consistently grounded in agreement by rules of behavior (a moral code) and enforced by consequences for infractions within the home governed in a society by the rule of law.

A child reared in such an environment would internalize enough strength of character, integrity, self-trust and self-sufficiency to stand up for truth and fight against succumbing to the fear and influence of, and control by, a group.

Unfortunately, this ideal rarely happens. Far too many of us were raised in broken homes by broken people, and have succumbed to blaming anything and anyone outside ourselves for the lack felt inside.

We want to feel accepted, to belong. We want life to be fair. We want someone or something — group, government or new laws — to take care of us, to fix it, rather than addressing this lack within ourselves.

Jeanne M. Ives, Oakland

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